Industry Update
Opinion Article 1 October 2009

CRM Technology for Travel: Where is the Center of Your CRM?

By Gregg Hopkins, Senior Managing Director at PROVision Partners

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www.yourhotel.com. It’s your website. Everyone has one. But what is its purpose? Does your organization use it primarily as a marketing tool or as a revenue channel? Many organizations have spent thousands (including some spending tens of thousands) on developing an effective website to communicate to their prospective and current customers. The website, while incorporating the hotel’s branding and identity, typically lists the amenities, room information, dining room menus, location, directions, etc. Most websites, and surprisingly not all, even have the capability to book a future room reservation, meeting or even a dining reservation.

I fully subscribe to the business strategy that hotels should “drive” their customers to their website. Once deployed, it provides a minimal manpower consuming way to provide extensive information about the property, and is typically the least expensive distribution channel for reservations. However, that is typically where the relationship with the customer ends. Other than the Internet booking engine component, self-service options for hotels guests and customers are a rarity. Why haven’t more hospitality organizations embraced the website as the center of their CRM philosophy?

Your customers already expect this type of online experience. The airlines have done it for years. Social Media sites have it. The large, international chains gather information about their guests online, and allow them to update phone numbers, email addresses, and preferences. Why don’t the smaller chains, hotel groups and independents have this type of functionality?

Consumers are hesitant today to turn their personal information over to reservation agents or front desk staff in fear of identity theft or worse, and therefore hotels are not easily able to obtain true guest profile and preference data. Instead, hotel marketing managers send surveys to try to capture that information, but most of the queries are based solely on post-stay statistics.

Today’s technologies allow websites, regardless of the hotel company’s size, to feature CRM capabilities by seamlessly integrating “www.yourhotel.com” with your customer relationship management application. Customers can take the initiative to manage their personal information, update preferences and track rewards in a safe, secure environment that they control.

Your website should also be the source for stay-specific applications. Instead of using your website as your high-speed Internet access (HSIA) landing page, hotels should provide a property-specific portal that allows in-house guests to learn more about the hotel and its amenities, along with local attractions, weather and maps or even order room service.

After the stay, your website should also be the primary source for your customers to review past stay information and guest folios, sign up for email offers, post travel reviews and update their stay preferences for future visits. In addition, loyal customers should have the ability to view and manage their membership data online, redeem reward points, purchase gift certificates and request room upgrades.

It’s time to upgrade your website. Hoteliers looking for a better way to manage their guest history data for improved marketing need to give control over to their guests and make their website the center of their CRM.

About Libra OnDemand | Libra OnDemand leverages the power of the world’s most popular on demand platform (salesforce.com) to provide a comprehensive suite of hospitality specific applications: customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation (SFA), database email marketing, catering & event management, loyalty & rewards management, reporting & data analytics, and integration & centralization tools. Designed to drive sales and increase revenues for the world’s premier hospitality organizations, Libra OnDemand is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application that is easy to use and requires zero upfront investment. For more information about Libra OnDemand, contact [email protected] or visit the website .

About Gregg Hopkins | Gregg Hopkins is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Libra OnDemand LLC. Gregg has over 25 years of experience in hotel management and hospitality technology. He has worked with various enterprise property management and central reservation system providers, online travel agencies, and destination vacation portals. He has also provided consulting services to hospitality organizations on reservations electronic distribution, technology, e-commerce initiatives, CRM initiatives, marketing, sales strategy, and business development. Gregg is a subject matter expert on hospitality management systems, electronic distribution, and CRM. He also participates as a committee or board member of several industry associations. Gregg can be reached at [email protected]

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